The program of autonomy of the Vilnius region was neither an initiative of the leadership of the USSR nor the KGB, it also has not been imposed by the communist nomenclature. It had the attributes of the spontaneous social movement of Poles living in the territory of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and then Republic of Lithuania. They mobilized in the wake of national awakening in times of political breakthrough and tried to win the subjectivity for their community. They were guided by the exact same reasons that drove Lithuanians to fight for secession from the USSR, although Poles never went so far to demand full independence.

The research project “Autonomists. History of the aspirations for autonomy of the Vilnius” brought a new image of the historical process through interviews with key participants, or at least witnesses of the events of activities of Polish autonomous movement in Lithuania. It has also strengthened or contradicted some of the previously made assumptions and conclusions. It supplements knowledge specifically about the historical context of the movement of Poles from Vilnius region in the years 1988-1991, highlighting, through the perspective of individual inhabitants of the region, the existence conditions of the community during the period when the region and the whole of Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union. The personal and family memories are basically consistent with the picture emerging from the sources from that era.

On the one hand, the Poles in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic were given opportunity to cultivate identity and express their national feelings, opportunity which was not found in any other republic of the Soviet Union. In interviews, Polish activists expressed the conviction that the survival of the Poles as an integral community and their strong self-awareness was made possible thanks to four institutions: schools teaching polish language, the Catholic Church where the liturgy was performed in Polish, Polish press and artistic groups (theater, songs and dance). According to the consistent opinions the most fundamental role was played by Polish-language schools, but over time it was reduced. In the years 1953-1988 the number of students and classes with Polish language of instruction decreased from 26 835 to 9 9951. It should be noted, however, that the establishment of a wide network of these schools was possible after the intervention of the central Soviet authorities in Moscow, after a period when the Lithuanian communists launched a campaign aiming at liquidation of Polish education in the years 1947-48, which aroused protests among the Polish community2. The only polish newspaper in Soviet Union, called “The Red Banner” was functioning in the Lithuanian SSR together with a number of smaller polish magazines. Regardless of the element of ideological indoctrination, they informed about the initiatives of the local Polish community, and even told about its history, although in a disguised form. Paramount importance for Poles in maintaining their national culture was indeed the very fact of the possibility of using the media in their mother tongue. It should be stressed that the existence of Polish-speaking institutions was criticized by a part of the leading Lithuanian communist activists and intellectuals3. It is characteristic that even today the leader of the former Lithuanian independence movement and the first leader of independent Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis considers Polish-language schools that functioned in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic not as the natural answer to the needs of autochthonous national minority constituting most of the inhabitants of a given region of the country, but as a “element of sovietization, parochialism” and as he said “Naturally also separatism”. Landsbergis questions the national consciousness of Poles claiming that “the Polish education system, was expanded to include displaced people from Belarus, who spoke Russian “- while during the Soviet era the people coming from Belarusian SSR to Vilnius were mainly of polish origin and came from Grodzieńszczyzna4.

Meanwhile, the Poles were autochthonous national minority, residing contiguously in Vilnius area and constituting a majority there, despite the losses of war and post-war expatriation of about 250 thousand Poles5. The census of 1959, conducted after a large transfers of population, showed that 2 711,4 thousand people lived on the territory of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, of which 2 150.8 thousand were ethnic Lithuanians (79.3%), 231 thousand Russians (8.5%), 230.1 thousand Poles (8.5%), 30.3 thousand Belarusians (1.1%), 24.7 thousand Jews (0.9%), 17.7 thousand Ukrainians (0.6%) and 26.8 thousand were representatives of other nationalities (1.1%)6. What is important, in areas adjacent to the Vilnius, Poles constituted large number of population, respectively: in the rural district of Šalčininkai (pol. Soleczniki) 83.87% of the population in rural district of Vilnius 81.44%, in 73.21%, rural district of Eišiškės (Ejsszyszki) 67.40% and 48.17% in Trakai district. Whereas very small number of Poles remained in the areas of pre-war territory of the Republic of Lithuania, which, combined with a minimum participation of emigrants from these areas in the post-war expulsion, suggests that the depolonisation efforts taken there by the pre-war Lithuanian state were effective. This is the starting point in the existence of Polish community within the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic7. The census of 1989 conducted at the time of formation of the Polish autonomists movement in the Vilnius showed that among the 3 674 802 inhabitants of Lithuanian SSR 2 924 251 were ethnic Lithuanians (79.6%), 344 455 Russians (9.4%), 257 944 Poles (7%), 63 169 Belarusians (1.7%), 44 789 Ukrainians (1.2%) and 12 392 Jews (0.3%). Compared to 1979, the number of Poles increased by 11,000. Poles constituted the majority of residents in two areas: Vilnius-Wilno where it accounted for 63.54% of the population and Šalčininkai-Soleczniki – 79.55%. Other areas with a significant share of the Polish population in 1989 are: Švenčionys-Święciany district – 28.77% of the population (down 1.16%), Trakai-Troki district – 23,84% (down 5.69%), the Širvintos-Szyrwinty district – 11.06% (down 1.24%), Ignalino-Ignalina district – 7.49% (down 1.86%), Zarasai-Jeziorosy district – 7.36% (down 2.72%). It should be emphasized that within these areas there were also apylinkės (municipalities) with the majority of Polish population8.

On the eve of the period of Gorbachev’s reforms in 1985, membership base of the Communist Party of Lithuania, which was a branch of the CPSU consisted of 70.2% Lithuanians, 17.5% Russians, 4.2% Poles, 3.1% Belarusians, 2.6% Ukrainians, 1.0% Jews. Until the actual disintegration of the CPL at the turn of 1989 and 1990, proportions have not changed significantly. In terms of party activity of individual ethnic groups in the last year before the split of the CPL – 1989 – the party consisted of 11.27% Russians, 5.06% Lithuanians and 3.55% Poles9. Contrary to the narrative of many Lithuanian politicians and journalists speaking about “sovietized Poles10, ” this national group was the least involved in key power structures of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Even smaller was the participation of Poles in the real core of this structure – the party apparatus. In 1973 Poles constituted 1.9% of salaried employees in urban and district party committees (Lithuanians respectively 56.3% and 65.1%, while for the Russians the numbers were 27.3% and 19.3%). As for the district committees, among their employees in 1973 there was 2.3% of Poles (respectively 68.2% Lithuanians and 19.3% Russians). When we compare the proportion of participation of Poles among the rank and file party members in those years, their share in the party apparatus turns out to be of significantly smaller proportion. The difference is even greater when we compare it with the percentage of Poles in society of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1960, in absolute numbers, only 25 Poles worked for the party administration. In 1973 this number rose to 32. 4 Poles worked in the apparatus of the Central Committee in 1973. At the XX Congress in December 1989, where the split occurred between the sovereignty faction ( “Independent CPL”) and pro-Moscow faction ( “CPL on the CPSU platform”), among the 1,038 delegates 80% were Lithuanians, 10% Russians, 2% Poles and 8% from other nationalities11.

The lack of significant community representatives in the structures of power and low politicization, further strengthened the destruction, during and immediately after the war, of the former social structure of the community of local Poles was so severe to the extent that they were in practice deprived of the intellectual and cultural elite. This led to their marginalization. In 1979, only 16.5% of working Poles were white-collar workers, while among other major national groups this percentage was as follows: 28.9% Lithuanians, 36.9% Russians, 29% Belarusians12. Among the employees of the city of Vilnius this difference was even more significant: only 20.3% of working Poles were Polish, 54.6% of Lithuanians, 43.5% of Russians, 38.6% from other nationalities13. In 1979 only 2.3% of Poles had university degree compared to 6.5% of Lithuanians, 10.7% Russians, 6.3% Belarussians, 13.6% Ukrainians and 29.6% of Jews14. It translated into the professional and social position of the Poles. This can be seen especially brightly on the example of regions where Poles had the most prominent numerical superiority in comparison to other nationalities. In 1979 In the district of Šalčininkai-Soleczniki Poles, being 81.3% of the population, accounted for only 37% of executive positions in the administrative, economic and social organizations, while the Lithuanians up to 36%, despite the fact that there was only 7.5% of them. in the Vilnius-Wilno region, the situation was as follows: the Poles-68% of the area population had only 19% of managerial positions (Lithuanians: 15.7% of the population, 62% of managerial functions)15.

The lack of representation of Poles in the ruling elite affected the marginalization of the region inhabited by them within the command-and-distribution socio-economic system. As one of the leaders of Polish community recalled the Vilnius-Wilno region occupied last place among all the regions of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic in terms of housing space per one inhabitant. The same was in the case of the access to kindergartens and nurseries, the number of telephones per household, number of magazines and books in public libraries and commercial buildings in the area. In terms of the average number of medical personnel per 10 thousand residents Wilno region occupied the penultimate 43 place, in terms of the number of physicians 42, in terms of the number of hospital beds 39. Let us note that this region in terms of size was ranked 3rd among all the regions of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic16. All listed factors related to the political, social and economic marginalization of Poles in the LSSR lead us to accept the thesis that the program of the autonomy of the region in these conditions had strong reasons, as well as in the obvious ethnic separateness.

Perestroika and glasnost’ launched by the Mikhail Gorbachev who was ruling since 1985 meant liberalization of censorship. In practice, it very quickly led to a revival of discussions on historical topics, which in turn revived the formerly repressed national instinct, especially in the three Baltic republics. This revival or national awakening progressed at the same time in the Lithuanian and Polish communities. More so, the foundation of the Social and Cultural Association of Poles in Lithuania in May 1988 outrivaled the creation of the Lithuanian movement Sąjūdis – which was initially seeking to increase the scope of the independence of Lithuania within the Soviet Union and then declare its full independence. Immediately Sąjūdis revealed the resentment against the Polish community, there were cases of verbal aggression towards the Poles by part of its activists and sympathizers, the movement completely ignored the interests of Poles and called for institutional ownership depletion of Poles17. The existence of Polish education in the villages inhabited mainly by Poles already in 1989 was treated in terms of discrimination of local Lithuanians18. Sąjūdis had not sought the support of Polish national group, not a single Pole was invited to the management of the movement, although the Polish community had expressed such a wish. Among the 1,021 delegates on the founding congress of Sąjūdis there were 980 ethnic Lithuanians, 9 Poles, 8 Russians, 6 Jews and 18 representatives of other nationalities19. Both the Sąjūdis and Lithuanian communists quickly and unequivocally rejected the idea of ​​the autonomy of the Wilno region20.

The real detonator of polish concerns, and consequently of the conflict between the national revival movements of the two national groups, were the new language laws introduced at the end of 1988. Under the influence of Sąjūdis the Presidium of the Supreme Council of LSSR adopted on the 6 October 1988 a resolution granting the Lithuanian status of a state language of Lithuania. On the November 18th, the Supreme Council has changed the provision in the Constitution of the Lithuanian Republic making it the only official language. Finally, the issue was concretized and established by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR on “The use of the state language of the Lithuanian SSR” of 25 January 198921. It eliminated from public use all the languages ​​except Lithuanian. Proficiency in the Lithuanian language was required for such a wide range of positions in institutions and state-owned companies that it threatened to further extend the exclusion of Poles. Analyzing this matter in the context of the realities of eroding Soviet Union, it should be noted that similarly the main catalyst for the creation of separatist states Transnistria and Gagauzia in the Moldavian SSR was the law “On the status of state language” voted by the Supreme Council of the Republic on 31 August 199022.

In the autumn of 1988 the slogan of territorial autonomy appeared among the Vilnius Poles. This slogan led to their mobilization. Its bottom-up character is shown by the fact that, initially some of the individual apylinkės (municipalities) defined themselves as “national” and “Polish”. On December 28th, 1988 r. apylinkė in Sudervė (pol. Suderwa) first announced that is has a “national” status at the request of its 756 inhabitants. Over the next five months 16 municipalities (including 1 urban) in Vilnius district and 14 municipalities of Šalčininkai disitrict (including 2 urban) did the same23. As indicated by the petition of the residents of Šalčininkai district to the authorities of the Lithuanian SSR and the USSR, the residents understood the “national” status of individuals primarily as an opportunity for the official functioning of languages ​​other than Lithuanian24. Similar reasons were behind the proclamations of Šalčininkai and Vilnius districts which took place on 6 and 15 September 1989. It should be noted that the relevant resolutions of the regions had been taken by a large majority and their sessions were accompanied by rallies supporting national autonomy25. However, The Article 4 in the draft statute of “Soleczniki National-Territorial Dictrict” envisaged the creation of constituencies to the Supreme Council of Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic within the region or jointly with the Vilnius district, which indicates the search for mechanisms guaranteeing the subjectivity of Polish political community26.

The program to build an autonomous region for the Poles was supported by the first congress of the Union of Poles in Lithuania (ZPL) in April 1989, although the second congress of the ZPL in 1990 and the Union president himself distanced themselves from the term “autonomy”27. However, the factual beginning of the organized movement for territorial autonomy is the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Vilnius-Wilno region (Wileńszczyzna), which took place on 12 May 1989. Deputies from 2 regional councils, 3 municipal council and 27 municipalities gathered in Mickūnai (pol. Mickuny) in Vilnius district. The Coordination Council for the creation of Polish National Autonomous Region within the LSSR was established at the congress. Its president was Leonard Sapkiewicz – President of Rukojnie apylinkė in the Vilnius distrcit, the Vice-President was Stanislaw Pieszko – Head of the District Repair and Technical Support Enterprise in Šalčininkai. The Coordinating Council, supplemented in time by representatives from the Trakai-Troki, Širvintos, Švenčionys and Naujoji Vilnia (pol. Nowa Wilejka) urban district of Vilnius inhabited mainly by Poles) regions, was the executive and directing center of the movement for autonomy. Congress turned to the Supreme Council of Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and asked for talks and recognition of previous proclamations of municipalities and regions as Polish and national. The congress also called for work on the establishment of special district for the Polish population in Wilno region28. The “strive towards the creation of Polish Autonomous Region” was also announced by the Coordinating Council in a special statement29.

Form which the movement took – meetings of representatives of people from all levels of government, starting with the most basic proves, in the author’s opinion, that it was representative. It testifies to the fact that it were the supporters of territorial autonomy – Jan Ciechanowicz30and Anicet Brodawski31, who obtained electoral support in the Vilnius region gaining the mandates of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR in the elections in the spring of 1989. The latter will become one of the leaders of the autonomy movement. In the elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Council in February 1990 out of eight selected Poles, who have received the mandate and formed a polish parliamentary faction, six were active participants in the movement for autonomy. It should be emphasized that in this period of the bankruptcy of the ideology and the disintegration of political discipline in the Soviet Union, the elections began to reflect the actual social trends.

II Congress of Deputies of Local Councils of the Wilno Region took place on the 1 June 1990 in Zavišonys (pol. Zawiszańce) in the Šalčininkai district and gathered 213 delegates from Vilnius, Širvintos, Švenčionys and Trakai districts. Nota bene, the changed nomenclature suggests that the organizers of the Congress recognized the institutional changes carried out by the authorities of the Republic of Lithuania32. Congress has issued an appeal to the Supreme Council of, by then proclaimed independent, Republic of Lithuania calling “to create, within the Vilnius and Šalčininkai districts and also in parts of Švenčionys , Trakai and Širvintos dystricts self-governing ethno-territorial unit with its own statute”, which was defined as “local government unit”33. In response to the operation of Polish autonomists the Supreme Council appointed the State Committee of East Lithuania, as the Lithuanian nomenclature calls Wileńszczyzna to this day. In its report the Committee completely rejected the possibility of autonomy for the region34.

The second phase of the Second Congress of Deputies Councils of Governments Wilno region took place on 6 October 1990 and was held in Ejszyszki. It was attended by 209 delegates from the Vilnius, Šalčininkai districts and also in parts of Švenčionys , Trakai and Širvintos and Vilnius. Congress passed the “Declaration on the establishment of Polish National-Territorial Government in the composition of the Republic of Lithuania”. At the same time an overwhelming majority rejected the request of the activist of the Communist Party from Šalčininkai district Jan Kucewicz to create a separate autonomous country “with the statute of the republic” within the USSR35. Soviet officers present at the congress suggested that the autonomists might benefit from the assistance of the Soviet authorities, but these proposals were ignored. Section 2 of the Declaration set out the boundaries, so that the districts of Šalčininkai and Vilnius as a whole, as well as the Pabradė town and its rural municipality, and Magūnai (pol. Maguny) municipalities from the Švenčionys district; Kariotiškės (pol. Karaciszki), Paluknys (Pałuknia), Trakai (Troki), Senieji Trakai (Stare Troki) municipalities from the Trakai district and Jauniūnų (Jawniuny) municipality from the Širvintos district36. Thus the administrative unit was to cover the villages and towns with the majority of the Polish population. Even before the congress, the Lithuanian authorities once again firmly rejected demands of autonomy of the Wilno accusing the Polish autonomists of being inspired by the “conservative political circles of the Soviet Union”37. Members of the Coordinating Council conducted talks with the permanent representatives of the Lithuanian authorities, but they did not recognize the subjectivity neither of the Council, nor the Conventions of the Wilno region Deputies.

The massacre of civilians carried out by the Soviet soldiers at the Wilno TV tower on 13 January 1991 had created a new political situation. Fearing the soviet intervention, Lithuanian authorities made conciliatory gesture after the visit of representatives of the Polish population, giving to understand that their demands will be taken into account. On January 29, 1991 The Lithuanian Supreme Council introduced five amendments to the “National Minorities law” which included, in general terms, part of the polish demands38. In a separate resolution The Council obliged the Government of Republic to propose a new administrative division, taking into account a separate district for ethnically Polish Wilno region, by 31 May 199139. The Government had also created a project to organize higher education in Polish language. However, neither the Lithuanian government, nor the Lithuanian parliament has taken any steps to implement these resolution. This resulted in disappointment of the Polish population, expressed in the low turnout in the February poll on the issue of independence of Lithuania in the regions of Wilno and Sołeczniki. The disappointment was also shown by the fact that the referendum on the future of Soviet Union initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, which was not recognized by the Lithuanian authorities, has been organized in the regions with Polish majority.

The third stage of the Second Congress of the Deputies Councils of the Wilno region took place on 22 May 1991 in Mostiškės (pol. Mościszki) in Vilnius district. It was attended by 201 delegates from the Vilnius, Šalčininkai districts and also in parts of as well as from individual municipalities from Švenčionys , Trakai and Širvintos and Vilnius. Polish autonomists gave voice to Vytautas Landsbergis, who urged them to abandon any further action. He linked the postulate of the autonomy of the Wileńszczyzna to “a small state in Africa […] where one can buy the state authorities and perhaps the population.” He accused Polish activists of making up a “new nation” of “Soviet Poles”40. Participants of the congress did not hide their indignation to this type of suggestions41. The congress adopted, with the majority of 195 votes42, a draft Statute of the Wilno Polish National-Territorial Krai (Wileński Polski Kraj Narodowo-Terytorialny) in the composition of the Republic of Lithuania approved by the Coordination Council on 8 May, by introducing only minor modifications43.

Statute of Wilno Polish National-Territorial Region assumed its far-reaching autonomy within the Republic of Lithuania, with the territorial limits set by the resolution of the convention in Ejszyszki. The “Administrative center” of the country was to be one of the districts of Wilno – Nowa Wilejka. WPKN-T, as a “legal” and “democratic” unit had to have its own, elected in a democratic way, legislature (Parliament), executive (the Management Board) and the judiciary bodies (Regional Court and District Courts). Their activities were to be consistent with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Lithuania. This compliance was to be monitored by the plenipotentiary of the Lithuanian government, who would also have the right of legislative initiative in the Wilno Country Parliament and the right to convene the extraordinary sessions. On the other hand, all legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania on WPKN-T would be first considered by the Parliament and the National Board of Wilno and would require their approval. In the case of the republican legal acts infringing the legislation of the autonomous country the authorities would have the right to suspend the implementation of such republican legislation. The chairman of the National Sejm of Wilno was to be the head of the WPKN-T. In addition the chairman would also perform the function of Vice-President of the Presidium of the Parliament of Lithuania. Parliament of the Land of Wilno would have the right of legislative initiative in the Lithuanian parliament in case of the “issues related to the Land of Wilno”. The work of the Wilno Parliament was to be directed by its Council. The parliament was to appoint judges and prosecutors in the framework of judicial autonomy. Chairman of the Board of the WPKN-T was to be a permanent member of the government of the Republic of Lithuania. Authorities of the WPKN-T were to determine themselves the electoral laws in the Country. The Statute established the citizenship of the WPKN-T and allow its citizens to have both the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, but also the of the Polish Republic and / or the Soviet Union. ​​Polish, Lithuanian, Russian and, if necessary, local languages ​​were to be used in the Land of Wilno on equal terms. Local governments in WPKN-T were to function in the form of local assemblies of People’s Deputies (Sejmiki Posłów Ludowych) at the level of both municipalities and rural communes. The economic system allowed for different, equally treated forms of ownership: state, municipal and private. Wilno Country (as well as local government units within it) was to have an independent budget and its own tax system. The rules for grants and payments between the budget of WPKN-T and the Republic of Lithuania were left to statutory provision44.

The members of the Coordinating Council submitted the Statute of Wilno Polish National-Territorial Region to the Supreme Council of Lithuania as a bill, awaiting approval. The situation was the same with the previous autonomists resolutions which confirms that their actions did not have a separatist character. These projects have not been approved by the Lithuanian authorities. After the political crisis – the so-called “Yanayev Coup”, which initiated the paralysis and ultimately breakdown of the USSR, the authorities of the Republic of Lithuania started to act against Polish autonomists. On 4 September 1991 r, The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, contrary to existing law, suspended the local governments dominated by Poles in the regions of Wilno and Sołeczniki dissolving local councils45. Commissary administration lasted there until the spring of 1993. People campaigning for the autonomy became the target of law enforcement, but the Prosecutor General’s Office found no evidence of illegal activity and was forced to discontinue the proceedings in 1995. The charges related to the activities supporting the autonomy of the Wilno region were not a part of the criminal case against Leo Jankielewicz and four members of the Sołeczniki council.

Polish autonomists did not receive the support of the Republic of Poland, though they did applied for it. Even back in 1991, on 31 August, a delegation of Coordinating Council members – its President Leonard Sapkiewicz, deputy chairman Stanisław Pieszko, Anicet Brodawski and Walentina Subocz, met in Warsaw with representatives of the Polish government, including the then head of the Office of the President of Poland, Jarosław Kaczynski46. The meeting has not produced desired results. The day after the suspension of local governments in the areas inhabited by Poles, Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Lithuania. On 13 January 1992, during the commissary rule in the disrticts of Vilnius and Šalčininkai Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski signed in Wilno Declaration on friendly relations and good-neighborly cooperation between the two countries.

Polish autonomous movement in the Wilno region must be understood in the context of the process of decomposition of the communist regime, the transformation process leading to a complete change in the current position and the rules of each existing social and political actor, the disappearance of some and the emergence of new ones. Without this context it is impossible to understand or at least have good knowledge about the phenomenon of Polish autonomy of the Wilno region. During the time of the decomposition of the system, Polish community in Lithuania consolidated, its new elites emerged and its final political empowerment occurred. Among the new elites were representatives of the former nomenclature, but exactly analogous situation was among the Lithuanians, where CPL proved to be one of the major political forces supporting the independence. Also a large part of Sąjūdis activists were former members of the Communist Party. Similarly, the elites of both national groups in the initial phase referred to the new political guidelines published by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev (the original name of Sąjūdis is “Lithuanian Movement for the Reconstruction-Perestroika”).

In the new conditions of the fall of totalitarianism the most marginalized community – Poles aggregated and expressed their interests. Interest, the expression of which was previously completely suppressed. Lithuanian politicians, both from the Sąjūdis and CPL did not give any guarantees of taking these interests into account. On the contrary, Lithuanians conducted acts of symbolic violence and challenged not only the interest, but the very identity of Poles. This had led to a conflict between the two movements for the emancipation of the both national communities. Lithuanians sought the secession from the Soviet Union and wanted to build a unitary national state. Poles on the other hand demanded territorial autonomy only in the area where they constituted the majority of the population. Historical sources deny the thesis that the Polish autonomous movement had separatist characteristics, despite the appearance of such slogans among this community. All the formal acts of autonomous movement bodies assumed the construction of a new administrative unit as a part of the emerging independent Lithuanian state.

Only Lithuanians realized their ambitions and goals, forming a unitary, centralized nation-state. It should be taken into account when considering the fact of institutional discrimination, or at least ignoring the needs and interests of contemporary Polish community in Lithuania as reported by this community. One can consider whether it somehow ex post affirms the premises behind the historical movement for autonomy in the years 1989-1991.

Karol Kaźmierczak

Projekt „Autonomiści. Historia dążeń do autonomii Wileńszczyzny” sfinansowany został ze środków Senatu RP oraz Stowarzyszenia Odra-Niemen.



A. Srebrakowski, Polacy w Litewskiej SRR,Toruń 2001, p. 142.


A. Bobryk, Odrodzenie narodowe Polaków w Republice Litewskiej 1987-1997,Toruń 2005, p. 43


A. Srebrakowski, Polacy…,ss. 112-117.


V. Landsbergis, , Nasz patriotyzm, ich szowinizm?(interview by Mariusz Maszkiewicz), Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2011, p. 23-27.


A. Srebrakowski, op. cit., p. 105; M. Latuch, Repatriacja ludności polskiej w latach 1955-1960 na tle zewnętrznych ruchów wędrówkowych,Polskie Towarzystwo Demograficzne, Warszawa 1961, p. 135.


P. Eberhardt, Przemiany narodowościowe na Litwie,Warszawa 1997, p. 129.


A. Bobryk, op. cit., p. 30.


A. Srebrakowski, op. cit., p. 126.


Ibidem, p. 252-254.


V. Radžvilas, Memel – Wilno: neišmoktos istorijos pamokos, „Lietuvos Rytas” [online], access 13.10.2016.


Srebrakowski, op.cit., p. 257-259, 269.


Ibidem, p. 114.


A. Srebrakowski, Polacy….,p. 153-155.


Ibidem, p. 145.


A. Bobryk, op. cit., p. 113-114.


A. Brodawski, Dążymy do samorządu regionalnego,„Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 190 (11141), 18.08.1989.


Stanisław Pieszko, Niech za hasłami pójdą czyny,interview by Karol Kaźmierczak, „Myś”, 2012, issue 3 (24).


I. Šimelionis, Przedruk z komentarzem. O cota wrzawa,„Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 18 (10969), 21.01.1989.


H. Wisner, Litwa. Dzieje państwa i narodu, MADA, Warszawa 1999, p. 235.


By każdy czuł się równoprawnym obywatelem. Rozmowa przy okrągłym stole: jaka autonomia jest nam potrzebna?

, „Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 152 (11103), 2.07.1989; Program Komunistycznej Partii Litwy, „Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 3 (11254), 5.01.1990


A. Bobryk, op. cit, p. 155.


J. Darski (J. Targalski), Mołdawia – pieriestrojka – 1985-1991,[in:], access 13.10.2016.


A. Bobryk, op. cit., p. 156.


Petition of the residents of Šalčininkai district to the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR and the Presidium of the Supreme Council of Soviet Union. Copy in the authors collection..


M. Ławryniec, „Proklamować Polski Rejon Narodowy” postanowiła nadzwyczajna sesja Solecznickiej Rejonowej Rady Deputowanych Ludowych,„Czerwony Sztandar” issue 207 (11158), 8.09.1989; J. Podmostko, „Alternatywy nie mieliśmy, innego wyjścia nie było…”, „Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 215 (11166), 17.09.1989; video made during the rally in front of the office of Šalčininkai district administration. Copy in the authors collection.


Draft Statute of the National-Territorial District. Copy in the authors collection.


Rezolucja I Zjazdu Związku Polaków na Litwie,

„Czerwony Sztandar”, Issue 138 (11089), 14.06.1989.


Report of Stanisław Pieszka


Oświadczenie Rady Koordynacyjnej ds. Utworzenia Polskiego Obwodu Autonomicznego w składzie Litewskiej LSRR,

„Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 169 (11120), 25.07.1989.


J. Ciechanowicz, Program pięciu S, „Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 62 (11013) 15.03.1989.


A. Brodawski, Dążymy do samorządu regionalnego,„Czerwony Sztandar”, issue 190 (11141), 18.08.1989.


Z. Balcewicz, J. Bielawska, Wileńszczyzna z kim i dokąd. Notatki z II zjazdu przedstawicieli samorządów,„Kurier Wileński”, issue 125 (11376), 9.06.1990.


Apel do Rady Najwyższej Litwy,

„Kurier Wileński”, issue 125 (11376), 9.06. 1990


Wnioski Państwowej Komisji do spraw Litwy Wschodniej

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 208 (11459), 5.10.1990


J. Bielawska, R. Piotrowski, Monologów ciąg dalszy?, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 212 (11463), 11.10.1990


Uchwała II Zjazdu Deputowanych Rad Samorządów Wileńszczyzny o utworzeniu Polskiego Narodowościowo-Terytorialnego Kraju w składzie Litwy

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 212 (11463), 11.10.1990.


Oświadczenie Prezydium Rady Najwyższej i Rządu Republiki Litewskiej

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 208 (11459), 5.10. 1990.


Uchwała Rady Najwyższej Republiki Litewskiej o zmianie Ustawy Republiki Litewskiej o Mniejszościach Narodowych

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 20, (11537), 31.01.1991.


Uchwała Rady Najwyższej Republiki Litewskiej o wnioskach Państwowej Komisji do spraw Litwy Wschodniej

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 20 (11537), 31.01.1991.


Wystąpienie Przewodniczącego Rady Najwyższej Republiki Litewskiej Vytautasa Landsbergisa na II Zjeździe Deputowanych do Rad Samorządów Wileńszczyzny 22 maja 1991 r.

, „Kurier Wileński”, issue 104 (11590), 30.05.1991.


B. Oszerow, Z notesu gościa zjazdu deputowanych Wileńszczyzny, „Ojczyzna”, issue 16-17, 5-11.06.1991.


A. Brodawski, Mamy prawo decydowania o własnym losie, „Ojczyzna”, issue 15, 29.05.1991.


H. Wisner, op. cit., p. 242.


O Statusie Wileńskiego Polskiego Kraju Narodowo-Terytorialnego. Projekt Ustawy Republiki Litewskiej

, „Przyjaźń”, issue 19 (5691), 22.05.1991.


Z. Kurcz, op. cit., p.141


Press release of the Coordinating Council of the Wilno Polish National-Territorial Region and the Federation of Kresy organizations from 31.08.1991. Copy in the authors collection.

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